One small kick at World Cup is
one large step for paraplegics
One small kick at World Cup
is one large step for paraplegics Juliano Pinto, a 29-year-old Brazilian
who is paralyzed from the waist down, kicked the first ball of the 2014
World Cup football championship at the Opening Ceremony on 12 June in
Sao Paul Brazil using a mind-controlled robotic exoskeleton.
exoskeleton which weighs around 27 kg is built from lightweight alloys
and is powered by hydraulics. It is controlled by thought brain waves
that are picked up by electrodes in a helmet worn by Pinto. These
signals are passed to a computer worn in a backpack, where they are
decoded and used to move hydraulic drivers on the suit.
is the result of the international Walk Again Project and is the
culmination of years of work by an international team of scientists. Led
by Miguel Nicolelis, the Walk Again Project is a nonprofit,
international collaboration among the Duke University Center for
Neuroengineering, the Technical University of Munich, the Swiss Federal
Institute of Technology in Lausanne, the Edmond and Lily Safra
International Institute of Neuroscience of Natal in Brazil, The
University of California, Davis, The University of Kentucky, and Regis
Kopper of The Duke immersive Virtual Environment.
This started with
research from the Nicolelis lab using hair-thin and flexible sensors,
known as microwires, that have been implanted into the brains of rats
and monkeys. These flexible electrical prongs can detect minute
electrical signals, or action potentials, generated by hundreds of
individual neurons distributed throughout the animals’ frontal and
parietal cortices – the regions that define a vast brain circuit
responsible for the generation of voluntary movements.
perception of walking
The paraplegic patient in control of the
exoskeleton is typically unable to know the position of his legs in
space, the height of each step, or the intensity of his stride. Under
such conditions, it is difficult to precisely coordinate the motion of
walking. It was precisely to address this problem that EPFL researchers
As part of the Switzerland-based National Centre of
Competence in Research (NCCR) Robotics team, Hannes Bleuler has
developed a system to give the young patient – deprived of sensations
below the pelvis – sensory information by transmitting it as vibrations
to the upper body.
Sensory feedback on the forearm
Their system takes
the form of electronic armbands placed on the forearm of the patient
which generate vibrations when walking. Induced by sensors placed under
the patient’s feet, these vibrations vary in intensity depending on
whether the foot is in contact with the ground or according to the
position of the legs during the stride. At each step, the necessary
information is transmitted to the pilot of the exoskeleton.
properly, the system requires some practice. Volunteers in Brazil have
been training for months with a full environment in virtual reality (VR).
This learning process allowed them to integrate the relationship between
the different vibrations felt on the arms with the position of their
lower limbs. In the end, it was proved possible to “feel” the pressure
of the foot on the ground from heel to toe, or even to know the exact
position of the leg when the foot leaves the ground between strides.
This is how the exoskeleton is controlled with such fluidity and
Youtube: Juliano Pinto kicks the first ball of the World
Cup 2014 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZrvdODe1QI
of upload: 14th July 2014